LG is doing with a second screen what Motorola and Nokia did with the main screens

It wasn’t all that long ago when people wore a watch everywhere they went. When cell phones started arriving, the necessity of that timepiece on your wrist became less necessary – you’d just pull out your cell phone and check the time. Some flip phones even got fancy and put a small LCD across the top to show you the current date and time, and information about the incoming caller. Modern smartphones did away with this, using their primary display to show you relevant information at a glance. That is, until recently. Now Samsung and LG seem to be leading the charge with “second screens” – but the LG V10 Second Screen does things a little bit differently, and it’s really pretty cool.

LG V10 Redundant top barLG’s Second Screen is an “always on”, “24/7” display that promises not to chew up your battery. Why the “quotation marks”? You can turn off the “always on” display if you’d like to.

The placement of the Second Screen is brilliant – and frustrating (I’ll get to the latter in a moment). Near the top of the phone is where you’d typically find the sensors and front-facing camera. Nothing new here – except for the fact that there are two front-facing cameras. This leaves a lot of otherwise empty space to the right of those lenses.  What better way to use it than to plop in another screen?!

It’s not a “second screen” at all. That means it’s not a special AMOLED or e-Paper display, instead, it’s part of the main panel – which makes sense technologically.

The day, date, time, and notifications are arguably what you look at the majority of the time. By presenting that information in a more intelligent, battery-friendly manner, the utility of the device is greatly enhanced (fewer buttons to press, less battery consumption, and so on). Of course there are many different ways to go about doing this.

Ambient Display

active-displayThe V10’s Second Screen displays what you’d expect: day, date, time, and notifications. Alas, as seen in the screen above, it doesn’t do so all the time. The standard Android status bar still exists and still sits atop the contents of your screen. LG had a real opportunity to liberate that space by pushing its contents into the Second Screen – which it did, just not all the time.

Motorola’s ActiveDisplay and Nokia’s Glance Screen accomplish the same task using the entire screen – something that’s only realistically accomplished through the use of a low-power AMOLED panel. Here the notifications and clock are big, bold, and hard to miss. Very different than the little Second Screen on the V10.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

edgeSamsung is doing something similar with it’s “Edge” lineup, adding a secondary display to the right or left edge of the display.

The obvious difference here is Samsung taking advantage of the edges of the device whereas LG is utilizing the otherwise lost space at the top by the camera and sensor modules.

LG V10 Second Screen

The contents displayed on those secondary screens and how you interact with them are significantly different. That’s where we come back to the placement of  the Second Screen.

In addition to day, date, time, and notifications, the Second Screen also alerts you to your current notification. So far, so good. It’s when LG starts getting into multi-tasking and app swapping that things get a little cumbersome.

LG V10 Second ScreenDue to the size of the device, when you interact with the Second Screen at the top of the phone, you cover up the screen with your hand. That’s not a problem for interacting with notifications, but when you’re multitasking it’s not convenient at all. That’s something best done from the bottom of the screen – not the top. Sure, you’ll still have Android’s built-in buttons at the bottom, but including the feature at the top seems a little redundant – and counter-productive.

The rest of the features, notification and traditional status bar contents, those are brilliant! If LG could find out how to turn off (or at least allow the user to toggle) the Android status bar that does the same thing, and I think the company may have just shown us the next standard feature to be included in whatever version of Android comes after Marshmallow – just like Motorola did with ActiveDisplay.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.